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Ex-England international Brad Shields reveals ‘desire’ to play for All Blacks

By Finn Morton
Brad Shields (L) of England and team mate Chris Robshaw look on during the first test match between South Africa and England at Elllis Park on June 9, 2018 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Brad Shields laughed it off but it’s technically very possible. The former England international has returned to New Zealand’s shores and is once again eligible to finally play for the All Blacks.


During the height of his decorated career in the nation’s capital with the Hurricanes – including a Super Rugby title in 2016 – Shields was considered to be an All Black-in-waiting.

Many fans in the rugby-mad nation considered Shields’ selection to the glistening heights of the All Blacks to be a matter of if, not when. But that opportunity never came.

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Years passed but the backrower finally entered the fray of Test match rugby in 2018. Shields was handed a start at blindside flanker for a crunch clash between England and New Zealand later that year.

Then-New Zealand assistant coach Ian Foster revealed that Shields had been “very close” to a call-up in the years gone by – but Shields was lost to the All Blacks. He was playing for England.

The All Blacks went on to win a thriller at Twickenham by 16-15 as a try to England flanker Sam Underhill was ruled out late in the Test. But life goes on.

Shields, now 32, represented England nine times before unfortunately missing the cut for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan. Shields’ last Test was more than a few years ago now.


As per World Rugby’s eligibility laws which can see former internationals switch nations after a standdown period, Shields’ return to New Zealand opens the door for a unique shot at history.

Jamie Salmon – born in 1959 – is the only man to represent New Zealand (7 caps) before playing for England (12 caps).

But no man has ever played Test match rugby for England before switching allegiances to New Zealand. Brad Shields could be that man.

“There’s always a desire to play at the next level, whatever that might look like,” Shields told RugbyPass. “To get the opportunity to play international rugby again would be an absolute dream come true.



“But I haven’t really put much thought into it. I’ve tried hard to work on my mental game a little bit and I’ve been trying to block out these last few months just to ease my way back into the environment with Wellington and the Hurricanes.

“My first goal was to play really well for Wellington. Probably had a couple of average moments I reckon but the next step is to have a really good pre-season and put my best foot forward for the Hurricanes.

“All I can ask for myself is to play well and help the team, guide them, and hopefully point them in the right direction to play a Super Rugby final again.

“Whatever happens outside of that is out of my control from what I’ve learned over my career. I’ve just got to focus on what I can do in the moment and enjoy the moment as well.”

After helping the Hurricanes win their first-ever Super Rugby title in 2016, Shields went on to captain the franchise against the British and Irish Lions the following year.

Shields penned a deal with the London-based Wasps, though, in November of 2017. It was a telling blow for New Zealand and the All Blacks’ depth with the World Cup rapidly approaching.

The Hurricanes enforcer was still named as the team’s captain for the 2018 Super Rugby season before ushering in a new era in the northern hemisphere.

Having been part of two All Blacks wider training squads during his career – in 2012 and 2016 – the Wasps recruit went on to debut for England against South Africa in Johannesburg.

But after missing England’s World Cup squad, and with Wasps entering administration a couple of years ago, Shields had to look for a new base.

Shields found a home with Perpignan in France before being offered the chance to return to Wellington – an opportunity that “was just really good timing” after a “pretty stressful year.”

“It was a pretty stressful year or so with Wasps going under and having to go to France for the end of that season,” Shields said.

“For us, my wife and kids, we thought ‘What’s familiar to us’ and I had a couple of conversations with Jason Holland when Wasps went under.


“I said, ‘Look I’m really keen to get back’ and we had some family personal things that we had to get back to New Zealand for. I just said, ‘Would you like to float the idea past of (me) coming back and being a Hurricane?’

“One conversation led to another and it was as simple as that. I think it was in that moment before (Holland) knew about the All Blacks… it was a grey area where the club was going but I’m extremely grateful.

“It was just really good timing. Sometimes when it’s stressful in life you look for familiar things and this is familiar. It makes me excited.”

The Hurricanes’ Super Rugby title in 2016 stands as their only taste of championship glory in their history. Now that Shields is back, he believes the club is “due another really, really good season.”

While the Hurricanes were beaten by the Brumbies in the quarter-finals last year, and veterans Ardie Savea and Dane Coles are not part of their ranks, there’s plenty to like about this team.

With Du’Plessis Kirifi and Peter Lakai will need to step up alongside Shields in the absence of Savea, while Cam Roigard, Brett Camron, Jordie Barrett and Ruben Love are players to watch in the backs.

“We’ve got a real mindset of bringing the best out of our squad and the best out of our squad isn’t just the attacking flair that the Hurricanes potentially are used to.

“Success is measured by winning rugby games but we are going to lose games, potentially. We’re going to win games – we’re going to win games comfortably, hopefully. We’re going to lose games that are tight and they’re probably going to hurt more than any other games.


“The best way to grow is to go through a little bit of that adversity.

“We’ve already looked back on last season and where we fell short. Obviously, I wasn’t part of the mix but when you look back at some of those highlights from the Brumbies quarter-final you’re like, ‘Far out man’… we all feel the same even though we weren’t quite playing.

“I guess success is winning games and success is winning a championship but success for us at the moment is getting ourselves in the best possible nick to start Super Rugby.

“… The physical rugby aspect (of) getting our game plan nailed down and making sure we’re getting the best guys out of the pitch for round one.”


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